In the land of Alister, there are two warring countries. When Princess Ashelia's brother dies, she takes his identity as to make his dream come true. But what happens when she get's caught into the enemy's army, and falls in love with Lucas, who is the general, and Prince, of the country she is supposed to hate?


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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Chapter Four

“You are not very grateful, are you?” asked Lucas, who was looking at some pieces of papers on his desk.
            “I am very grateful,” said Ash, flatly. “Thanks.”
            Lucas scoffed, shuffling the papers back down onto the desk. “Jokester aren’t you?”
            “Of course,” said Ash again, even more flatly. He put the tray of food down onto the table. It was filled with water and bread, along with some food very well known the big cities. It wasn’t much, but it was way more than the usual ration soldiers get.
            Lucas looked up, his blue eyes shining with amusement, and sat down on his cot that was filled with blankets and pillows, well fit for a prince. He was one, after all.
            “I saved your life, you know,” said Lucas, taking off his shirt. Ash made sure to look away, though indiscreetly, like it was casual. She focused on pouring some water in a cup.
            “I know that,” murmured Ash.
            “Humph,” Lucas grunted. He continued to look at Ash. “You act hostile towards me. Is it because I made you my personal helper?”
            “Helper?” asked Ash, looking over at him. “More like servant.”
            Lucas smiled, and Ash noted that though his teeth were perfect, his smiled was a bit crooked, one side rising up higher than the other. “It’s been awhile since someone spoke to me in such a way. It’s quite refreshing.”
            “I bet it is,” Ash murmured, turning away and heading towards the entrance. It wasn’t the one to get out of his tent, unfortunately, but another tent had been joined together.
            “Would you have rather been in those training sessions outside, marching until you fell down?”
            Ash turned back to look at Lucas. “What if I said yes?”
            Lucas shrugged, falling back onto his cot. “Well then you can go if you want. I won’t stop you.” He casually pulled the tie in his hair, making his long curly black hair to fall around him.
            Ash cursed to himself. He was hoping to trap him, somehow. Instead he just frowned and turned around, heading towards his own smaller room in the tent.
            It wasn’t as big at all, or extravagant. Prince Lucas had the big cot with all those comfortable pillows and blankets. His was a regular size with one sheet and a pillow. The only other thing in his room was a bag with some extra uniforms. But that was it.
            Ashelia dropped herself onto the cot, stuffing her face into the pillow. Without thinking, her hand reached up to pull the annoying, itchy wig off, but she stopped herself.
            Is it safe?

            Ashelia sighed, pulling the blankets over her. Her mind was in turmoil. She couldn’t help but wonder about Stephen, and everyone else. Was the whole camp destroyed? Were there other survives?
            As she tried to fall asleep, she couldn’t help but have her mind wander. And slowly she started to cry. She sobbed for most of the whole night, trying to make sure no one could hear. Especially not Prince Lucas.
            He was the enemy, and Ashelia couldn’t help but think how utterly annoying he was. He was too arrogant. All the things he has, the food he gets. He could at least try to be normal around the other soldiers… or they’ll hate him for it.
            He saved you, a voice whispered.

            Ash stared at Stephen like he was already dead. From the looks of everything, he probably would be soon.
            Lucas had taken him to a row tents at the corner of the camp, darkly guarded. Once inside there was one lamp as light, and around you were surrounded by chains. A lot of them occupied.  And Lucas had shown Ash to one, leading him straight to Stephen.
            “Do you know him?” asked Lucas, his expression watching Ash’s every move.
            Ash stared at Stephen. His red cloak and fighting tunics, even his own armor had blood spattered all over it, overlaying the already red color, to a darker crimson. Stephen’s face was badly hurt, dried blood lining down from his forehead down to the bottom of his, also coming from the mouth and nose. His eyes was darkened in color, having being bruised and beaten. Ash could see darker red lining down his side. His eyes closed with dry blood.
            “He’s wounded,” Ash pointed out. “Shouldn’t you treat him?”
            Another man stepped up, at about the age of Lucas. Ash saw that he still only had one sword on his insignia, but there was a star around it. A soldier with special privileges, Ash guessed. “Do you know him?” the man repeated.
            She shook her head. “No.”
            Lucas and the man exchanged glances. Lucas stepped towards Ash.
            “You two were escaping together last night, if I am not mistaken. Tell the truth, do you know each other?” asked Lucas.
            After all the agonizing thinking Ash had done last night, he came to the conclusion that lying was the least of worries.
            “He was our Second Sword,” answered Ash, calmly. “I spoke to him a few times. I respect and admire him. But we know nothing else of each other.”
            “Nothing more?” asked the man.
            “Nothing more,” nodded Ash.
            The man’s eyes narrowed at him. “You better hope that you are not ly—”
            Lucas held his arm out, stopping the man to rant any further. “That is enough, Dominick,” he warned.
            Dominick looked over at Lucas, confused. “But Lucas, you cannot trust—”
            “I trust who I chose to,” said Lucas. “And yelling never solves anything.”
            Dominick looked worriedly at Lucas, then at Ash, but nodded and bowed. “Yes, Lucas.”
            Ash looked away from them, back to Stephen. She hardened her feelings inside, preventing it from showing on her face. “He is my higher rank,” he murmured. “Can you please help him?”
            “We are to have him alive,” said Lucas. “Though chained and heavy guarded. He is one of the Royal Guards, of Prince Aeson De Sancto Serennio. When he comes to consciousness we are to interrogate him about the Prince’s whereabouts.”
            “Lucas,” murmured Dominick. “Is it alright to speak of our plans to this soldier?”
            Lucas shrugged. “I don’t know. But he amuses me. I like him. Now go get some food and water for when he wakes, which should be soon.”
            Dominick gave him another worried glance, but nodded and walked out of the tent.
            “Why?” asked Ash, suddenly not able to keep his curiosity away.
            Lucas blinked at him. “Why do I like you?”
            “No,” Ash said hastily, actually a little embarrassed. “I mean, why the prince?”
            “Why not the prince?” countered Lucas.
            “But why Aeson?” asked Ash.
            “Why not Aeson?”
            Ash stared at him, unbearably annoyed. He groaned, “You’re hopeless.”
            Lucas laughed. “Well, Aeson is the smarter way to go, right?” he asked, sitting down on a wooden chair.
            “What do you mean?” Ash asked slowly.
            Lucas shrugged. “Prince Spiridon may be the heir, but he’s nothing but a coward.”
            Ash’s eyebrows raised, a little amused. “How so?”
            “He’s been living in nothing but protection his whole life. Everything he has done has been done by another. I have heard Aeson is different. I have heard that he had quite a reckless, rebellious streak, along with his sister. They even snuck away from the capital city, Marcel.”
            Ashelia nodded, burying down the memories and the emotions that came with it. She remembered that. It was quite a while ago. Ashelia and Aeson had decided to dress in dark clothes, hiding under cloaks. They snuck out at night, hiding in a merchant’s wagon, and escaped. For awhile they were free, but Spiridon had sent soldiers out to find them. They were in the country for a few weeks, but they were forced to go back.
            During the stay there was when Aeson first started getting symptoms of his sickness.
            “So Aeson’s better to target because he’s too careless,” murmured Ash.
            “No,” said Lucas. “He’s more dangerous. He knows how to handle himself, and think for himself.” He pulled out the shining silver sword out of his sheathe beside him, holding it up in between them The lamp reflected off it, turning the reflection of the blonde boy Ashelia was a slight orange. “Swords,” Lucas murmured softly, “Aren’t dangerous. They are nothing without the people wielding them. A coward could be holding the sharpest, lightest blade in all of Alister and still be a coward, dying at the hands of a warrior with a dull knife.”
            Lucas lowered his sword down, its point digging into the ground. Their eyes locked together.
            “And that’s why you were trying to capture him,” said Ash. “You wanted to get rid of an enemy.”
            Lucas’ eyes drifted towards his sword. “That works. But what would be better is using that enemy for benefit.”
            Ash’s anger flitted out slightly, and she quickly pulled it back inside her, but not before Lucas noticed.
            “You’re angry,” he noted. “Do you really plan to betray me?”
            “No,” Ash said quickly. Too quickly.
            Lucas and Ash stared at each other for a time, until Lucas nodded. “I cannot accuse you of lying,” he said. “I do not wish to, anyway.”
            Ash started to protest, but stopped himself.
            He is the enemy.
            “Do you, by chance… know Aeson Serennio? Personally?”
            Ash blinked, her eyes wandering back to the unconscious Stephen. “No. Why do you ask?”
            “Your reaction,” he said. “You reacted strongly when I said I wanted to capture him, and possibly use him.”
            “Is that not normal?” Ash murmured.
            A silence passed by as Lucas thought of that. “It is normal,” he murmured. “I suppose.”
            A small movement gave way in Stephen’s direction, and he slowly started moving his fingers, and then his bloodied eyes fluttered open. It took everything Ash had in him to not call his name out in relief.
            Stephen’s eyes focused, and widened as he realized what he was seeing. The first thing he was Ashelia, still in her blonde wig, dirtied, yet unharmed. For now. And then his eyes saw the shine of Lucas’ blade, glinting in front of Prince Lucas himself.
            He started to move to action, getting up and reaching for his sword, but the chain held him and taut to the ground and his hand reached no hilt, nor sword, nor sheathe. He had already stripped of his arms.
            “Ah,” smiled Lucas. “Good of you to finally wake up.”
            Prince Lucas,” scowled Stephen.
            Lucas calmly got up, getting a little closer to Stephen. He knelt down, facing him face to face. Stephen tried to injure him in any way, but the chains held him too tight. “You are Stephen, are you not? The one with no family name, for your family is not even known, not even to you. You are a Royal Guard to Prince Aeson Serennio, correct?”
            “And you,” Stephen spat, “are the bastard trying to kill him.”
            Lucas’ eyes narrowed slightly. “Hmm,” he thought. “It seems that Aeson is quite well liked. Ash, here, seems to respect him enough also.”
            Stephen’s eyes went over to Ash. He had not known the alias Ash had taken, and he never showed the realization either. Stephen went back to scowl at Lucas again. “You will never get him,” Stephen growled.
            Lucas stood up, and everything turned slow. Ash never knew what was coming, but in a sudden swift movement, Lucas’ arm reached over in blinding speed, and in a second, Stephen struggled to move while Lucas’ sword came at Ash’s throat.
            It froze there, though a small trickle of blood emerged, dripping down to the standard red and silver soldier tunic he was wearing.
            “So you two do know each other?” Lucas noted, having watched Stephen’s reaction.
            Stephen expression drifted into a hard, cold, emotionless void. That expression was something Ash realized from growing up with him. It was the expression of thought for him, in hoping that the enemy won’t read anything else.
            Lucas calmly lowered his sword and put it back into his sheathe, the sound of it seeming to be unusually loud to Ash. But still not as loud as his heart beat. Ash tried to calm himself down and think, searching for a quick answer that could be believable to Lucas.
            “Stephen was my private trainer, in a way,” murmured Ash, hoping his nervousness would be perceived as from being caught, and having to tell the truth, than from being caught, and lying again. “He had agreed to train me individually.”
            Lucas nodded, his eyes distant. “That explains your reaction to Stephen,” he murmured. “But then, where is Aeson?” His head shot to him, and his blue eyes were as penetrating as ever.
            “I do not know,” Ash said, having that as the first thing to pop into his mind.
            “You do not know…” Lucas repeated. He went to look at back at Stephen. “And you, Second Sword, Royal Guard to him. Do you no know either?”
            Stephen’s cold calculating expression remained. “You are easily fooled, Prince.”
            Lucas’ stare grew hard, his voice sharper. “How so?”
            “You came here to take the Prince, correct? If the prince came, why do you think there was only one Royal Guard to accompany him? Do you really think the crown would just send a prince to a far away army to train like that?”
            Lucas’ gaze grew harder and darker with every word.
            “It was a hoax. Prince Aeson never came here. That is why his other Royal Guard never came. He’s off protecting the real Prince Aeson, while I was here.”
            Lucas grunted, his eyes dark. “Well,” he murmured. “It seems the King of Marcellus isn’t as idiot as thought to be. Too bad no one will hear of this for awhile. That messenger you had sent to give word has already been taken care of.”
            Lucas and Stephen glared at each other, a seemingly deadly conversation of thoughts rushing between them. Ash was relieved when Dominick and another soldier came back with a cup of water and some bread.
            “Oh my,” Dominick noted, staring at the scene and hard atmosphere before him. “Well it seems he had awakened.”
            The soldier quickly went over to drop the plate in front of Stephen, and then scurried off, the tense atmosphere surely frightening him.
            “This is hardly reasonable,” said Stephen, staring at the plate in front of him. “I can’t even reach my food.”
            Ash quickly went over to sit in front of him. “Here,” he said, grabbing a piece of bread for Stephen.
            “Ash, come with me,” commanded Lucas, his mood obliviously bitter now.
            Ash looked up at him, nearly glaring. “Sorry, sir, but I am going to stay here and give this man food and water, or else he will die.”
            Dominick stepped up, anger and shock all over his face. “You insolent brat!” he spat. “Do not speak to Prince Lucas like tha—”
            “Let’s go, Dominick,” said Lucas, abruptly turning around towards the entrance.
            “But Luca—”
            “Let the servant, do his servant work.”
            A pang of hurt and anger went through Ash, but he ignored it, holding up bread for Stephen to eat. Dominick nodded and followed Lucas out of the tent.
            Ash continued to feed Stephen quietly, until they was sure they should be far away by now.
            “Good to see you again, Ash,” murmured Stephen, his eyes moving left to right. Ash knew to be careful, there could be other soldiers listening in.
            “Ash de Fieruilla, at your service,” he said, trying to smile.
            Stephen’s eyes widened in slight shock, then nodded. “What became of your friend with you?”
            Ash froze slightly, his eyes going distant, sad. “Dead,” he said softly.
            Stephen nodded and Ash continued on giving the rest of the bread. After he finished he gave Stephen his cup of water, trying to make sure he had every single drop. He might need all he can get.
            “It seems the prince took a liking to you,” said Stephen.
            Ash nodded. “He finds me somewhat amusing. But I am nothing but his servant.”
            “It’s good,” said Stephen. “It means he will not kill you.”
            “I guess,” Ash said softly, his eyes going over all the blood and wounds Stephen had.
            “But this is very dangerous,” said Stephen, his voice turning a little bitter. “He does not trust you, either.”
            “He doesn’t distrust me either,” Ash blurted out. He didn’t know why, but he knew. Even if he has only known Lucas for one night, he knew that Lucas isn’t one to judge another so quickly. But he wasn’t one to accept another so easily either. “I have to be careful. Very careful.”
            Stephen nodded. “Yes. Stay alive, Ash. Get as much out of this as you can,” he paused for a moment. “Get as much combat skills to learn for the life ahead of you.”
            Ash’s eyes widened. Though Stephen never said, Ash knew what he meant. He meant to get as much information as he could being Prince Lucas’ personal soldier.
            Servant, Ash corrected.
            “I will,” Ash murmured.
            A sudden horn erupted from outside, and Ash got up.
            “Lunch time, I suppose,” Ash said, looking towards the direction.
            “Go,” said Stephen. “And do not make a habit of visiting me. It could cause trouble.”
            “But—,” Ash protested.
            “Go,” Stephen repeated. “I will be fine. I will probably be used for many other things, but they will not kill me so easily. Now go.”
            Ash hesitated, but nodded, heading out of the tent. Sunlight hit him harder than a cannon, and he had to squint his eyes for a few seconds to adjust.
            The camp was different in the day than the night. He could clearly see everything. He was in a slightly deserted area, with only guards around, but as he headed towards the center of the camp, everything changed. The tents were like theirs, except their tents were more square, with only a slight point at the top, whereas theirs was more slanted everywhere.
            Ash saw the other soldiers, walking around for errands or other things. In a field far away, she could see a battalion marching, and his feet hurt from just looking at them. Ash figured since they continued, their lunch time wasn’t quite right now, like some others, and his sympathy grew. But something else was completely different.
            The size of their army there was absolutely massive.
            In the other points of horizon, more tents were drawn up, and Ash couldn’t help but wonder how big the camp actually was. She also saw other battalions, consisting of hundreds and hundreds of men. And there were maybe five battalions that she could see at the moment. When merged together they would have easily made a full regiment. That wasn’t everything either, all of them disciplined and obedient, proving themselves to be superlatively dangerous.
            Ash headed off towards the bigger tent. It was a little surprising to think that Lucas hadn’t sent a guard after him. He was still an enemy, after all. He also knew that Ash isn’t telling the whole truth…or any truth, really.
            Ash sighed. It just showed how insignificant and irrelevant a threat Ash is to him.
            He got to the tents, and was bombarded by the number of people jammed in one place. He had also seen others outside eating, yet there were still so much in this already spacious tent.
            A sudden cheer went up, and Ash turned to look at another entrance going into the tent. Prince Lucas and Dominick were walking in, their heads held high and proud, especially Lucas, Ash noted. He couldn’t help but wonder exactly how much pride he had for himself.
            “Your Highness,” the soldiers all saluted, a loud chime ringing throughout the tent. They all held their salutes until Lucas nodded, telling them to carry on.
            Ash started heading back out again, not wanting to be near him. For some reason, Lucas really annoyed him. He turned around, but the entrance was already filling up again.
            Ashelia frowned at how stuck she was there, getting shoved and pushed around one way and another. Most of the soldiers there were already taller than her, not to mention stronger than her, and probably older.
            “Ash,” said a voice. Ash froze, recognizing it. He sighed and turned around.
            “Prince,” Ash said flatly, a little annoyed.
            Dominick grunted indignantly, obviously disapproving Ash’s tone for Lucas.
            Lucas on the other hand, just smiled even wider. “Are you leaving?” he asked.
            “Are you not going to eat?”
            “I’ll eat another time.”
            “Nonsense!” he exclaimed, and Ash could feel other soldiers’ curious gazes on them. Ash couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed at how utterly loud Lucas was. Did he have no shame or manner? “You are going to eat with us,” he grinned. He grasped Ash’s upper arm. “You are too skinny and slender, like a girl, soldier. You will eat and get more meat on your bones.”
            Lucas proceeded to drag Ash towards the serving area where you get the food, Dominick following with an annoyed expression on his face. The soldiers parted for their way, their expressions changing to something of confusion and amusement.
            They think this is funny, Ashelia thought. Even now she could feel her face turning red.
            Ash tried to pull his arm away, but to no avail.
            They arrived at the serving area and the cooks gave them each a plate, consisting of a loaf of bread, a bowl of broth, and an apple and banana. Ash didn’t realize how hungry he really was after actually taking his serving and looking at it.
            “Soldier,” Dominick said, his voice hard. Ash turned to see him hold out another tray of serving, shoving it into Ash’s other hand. “You are the Princes’ personal helper, correct? Hold his food.”
            Ash just stared at him.
            “Wait a minute, Dominick,” said Lucas, reaching for his tray. “It’s fine. I am quite capable of holding my own food.” He started walking towards a table set off apart from the others, and Dominick started to follow. Ash, not knowing what to do, did the same.
            “Lucas,” hissed Dominick, trying to walk beside him and speak to him at the same time. “This does not make any sense. Why do you spoil him so? He gives you nothing but disrespect! He is not even of our own kind. All he did was surrender to survive, nothing more. Why treat him like so?”
            Lucas reached the table and sat down, Dominick sitting beside him. Ash went around to the other side of the table to sit in front of them.
            “I told you,” Lucas said, looking up at Ash. “He’s an amusing kid.”
            Ash scowled. “I am not a kid.”
            Lucas shrugged, starting to take a bite of his bread. “You are still young. Still learning. Look at you, have you even finished growing into manhood yet? You are nothing but a boy with a pretty face, with the delicacy of a girl. You do not know the dangers of the world.”
            “That’s insulting, prince,” Ash growled, grimacing, “for you know nothing of me.”
            “Insolent brat,” Dominick muttered.
            “Amusing,” Lucas repeated.
            Ash started eating, focusing on anything other than him. Ashelia had been born into manners and etiquette. Speaking so frankly and rudely was not something taught to her. This brutal honest communication was not something she was completely comfortable with.
            But one thing confused Ash very much. Many others came to speak with Lucas: Soldiers, Lieutenants, and Captains. Everyone. They were all really friendly towards the Prince, and he was back. Only Dominick seemed to be the calm one, while Lucas was speaking loudly and arrogant as always. It was as if Lucas and everyone else…were friends.
            Was it possible that his soldiers liked him, so much as if to say a friend? Or was it just respect and false smiles?
            Ash didn’t know.
            He quickly finished and started up, trying to find some sort of trash disposal.
            “Ash,” Lucas said, also finishing. He stood up and started walking, Ash followed, heading towards the disposal also. Dominick had wandered around the tent, speaking to other soldiers and commanders.
            “What is it now, sir,” said Ash. They disposed of their trays and started heading out of the tent, people saluting and even bowing towards Lucas the whole way.
            “Let’s train,” he said.
            They continued in silence, heading towards what looked like an empty field. Finally Ash asked, “Um, train?”
            “Of course,” said Lucas. “I am really not spoiling you. Of course I’m going to have to train you. And keep in mind I am a lot harder than any other commander here.”
            Ash groaned, drawing another laugh from Lucas.

            “Put more strength into it, soldier!” his voice boomed with complete authority, which sort of surprised Ash, even though he knew that he was a prince, after all. Lucas had more than proved himself to be the careless type, but at this moment he was acting like a real general. Strong, commanding, and frightening.
            “Yes, sir!” Ash responded. He drew his arm back, and propelled it forward, driving it onto the square shield of Amicah that Lucas was raising.
            Lucas kept his ground, and then drew back, sighing at Ash. Ash, in the meanwhile, was gasping and panting. Lucas wasn’t kidding when he said he was a lot more difficult than the other commanders, and having training personally meant that you couldn’t just watch and wait while someone else was getting yelled that. That poor, pitiful person is always you.
            “No!” shouted Lucas. “That is not enough! Get down and do fifty push ups.
            Ash’s eyes widened. “You are kidding!”
            “Down! Now!” he yelled.
            Ash dropped her own sword and fell to the ground, starting the push ups. Ash couldn’t believe this. For the past hour, he has been doing nothing but drills and sword techniques, and even tried sparring with Lucas. He was down in less than a second. Not to mention, that before all of that, he was to run nonstop for a whole hour.
            I’m going to die, Ashelia thought.
            Ash collapsed from exhaustion after finishing the fifty that required more yells and shouts from Lucas to even getting close to finishing it.
            Lucas crouched down beside him, his blue eyes set in a grim expression. “You will not get anywhere if you just lay there.”
            Ash turned away, avoiding his face.
            “Look at me when I talk to you, soldier!” Lucas roared.
            “Let me rest!” Ash commanded, pulling himself up to his elbows to look him straight in the eyes.
            Lucas raised a raised a brow and he paused slightly. “Do you know who you are speaking to?”
            Ashelia froze, realizing what he just did from his outbreak. She was supposed to be a regular soldier, but being raised as royalty with authority had gotten her used to getting things the way she wanted.
            “Lap around the camp, this instant!” yelled Lucas, standing up, his blue eyes hard and frightening. Ash instantly scrambled up and started running.
            What have I gotten myself into?

            Ashelia was shaken awake and she wearily turned to see who it was. She saw Lucas standing beside her cot and she immediately sprang up, fully alert. Unconsciously she reached up feel her head, and was relieved to find her wig was still there. She wasn’t sure if she had taken it off or not, and was a little thankful that Lucas had worked her tired all yesterday that she could have done nothing but collapse and fall into deep sleep.
            “Ash,” said Lucas. “Get up, we’re leaving.”
            Ash looked tiredly at him, still tired. “Leaving?”
            “Our camp is going to pack up and leave for the main camp in a few hours.”
            “Then can I sleep for a few more hours?” asked Ash, almost desperately.
            Lucas hauled Ash up, dressed only in his tunic with no armor or sword.
            “Be silent,” said Lucas as they headed out of their tent.
            “Where are you taking me?” he asked as they continued walking.
            “You will know soon enough. Be patient.”
            They walked until they were at the very edge of the camp, and to his surprise, they kept going until they were in the forest. Ash was tempted to ask again, but dismissed the notion as she finally noticed Lucas’ expression. It was slightly grim.
            They continued walking for a few minutes until they reached a small a clearing, a gigantic tree with twisting roots protruding from the ground. It was still wasn’t sunrise yet, but there was a faint orange glow rising, and a sadness swept over Ash as he looked onto the scene.
            He realized that was where Philo had died.
            Ash looked over at Lucas to find him staring intently at him.
            “This is—”
            “Yes,” Lucas answered, looking at the grand tree before them. Ash looked up also, and breathed in the scene. The branches were spread out about them, many yards over. The orange sunrise coming was turning the green leaves a slight, orange tinge.
            “Look closer at the base of the tree,” murmured Lucas.
            Ash glanced at him, and then over at the tree, her eyes searching as she walked closer. Then she saw the small headstone set under it. It was placed at the base of the tree, and was not even big. It was also blank, but it was enough to nearly get Ash to tears, and he knelt down in front of it.
            Philo, my dear friend, I hope you are in a better place now.
            There was slight rustling behind her, but Ash didn’t dare turn towards him when tears were nearly going to spill. Instead, Lucas stayed behind him and to the left of Ash’s face; he offered her a sharp knife.
            Ash took it into his hand, and on the blank headstone, engraved the name, Philo de Fieruilla.
            “Fieruilla,” Lucas muttered behind him. “He is your brother?”
            Ash tensed up a little, but nodded slowly. “My dear brother.”
            “No,” said Ash cautiously, knowing that the blonde wig she was wearing and Philo’s brown hair contrasted too much. “We are half brothers.”
            “Ah,” Lucas murmured in acknowledgment.
            Ash continued to stare at Philo’s gravesite, and finally asked before the curiosity killed her. “Why?”
            There was a slight pause, and then Lucas asked, “What?”
            “Why?” Ash asked again quietly. “Why do this for my brother, when you do not know him?”
            “Why take you in like this when I do not know you, either?” wondered Lucas aloud. “You ask too many questions, soldier.”
            “Sir,” responded Ash. He knew Lucas was probably right, so he contented himself with the honored grave, the sunrise falling dawn around them, and the cool, rustling wind stirring everything around them.
            Then he heard Lucas sigh, and he went to kneel down beside Ash.
            “That day Lieutenant Andrew and his already riddled down squad went and found you, I was somewhat surprised. It is natural that eighteen year olds go off to training, but you two seemed different. Your goals were different than normal, I saw. And it somewhat reminded me of myself.
            “Normally eighteen year olds in the army are of two kinds. They are forced, and do not want to be there, and it is quite simple to rule them out. And then there are those that join for fun. They do not realize the full extent of fighting…and killing.
            “But there is also a third kind, and that is us. There are a rare few who are neither. They chose to join on their own free will, whether it’s because they really wanted to or was forced is neither the case. They have a purpose, different from the rest. It isn’t about trying to survive in the army either. It’s accomplishing a goal that lets you have a chance to live.”
            “To live…” Ash mused, his eyes going distant with thought, “Sometimes you wonder what the real purpose of it is…and if it’s even worth it.”
            “It is,” said Lucas. “And when I saw you two…it felt so familiar, somehow. And your bond with each other was also.”
            “A bond?” asked Ash, and realized how Dominick refers to Lucas sometimes informally. “You and Dominick are friends. Are you speaking about him?”
            “We’re friends,” he answered, “best friends, though it does not show most of the time. But he’s not who I am talking about.”
            “Then…” Ash thought, “A brother?”
            Lucas nodded, slowly.
            “I did not know King Evander had another son,” muttered Ash, shocked. No one was ever informed of this.
            Lucas looked at Ash’s surprised expression, and laughed softly. “Why is it that I end up telling you things I know I shouldn’t, simply because I am comfortable with it?”
            “Maybe…” Ash thought, “It’s because sometimes you need to tell certain things to someone you do not really know, because it’s simply more comfortable than telling someone you know very well.”
            Lucas nodded, understanding. “I wonder why that is?”
            Ash looked back at the headstone, and set his fingers on the ground she knelt on. “Fear, I suppose…”
            Wind rushed up against them and Ash unconsciously held the blonde wig down to his scalp, even though he already knew it was well placed. It would not be blown off.
            What would happen, Ash wondered, if I told him who I really was?
            Ash quickly shook the thought out, knowing that was impossible.
            There was a trumpet sounding in the distance, and they both stood up.
            “It’s a long way to the main camp, Ash,” said Lucas as they walked back towards the campsite. “A few weeks time. I would really like it if you told me about your half-brother.”
             “Okay,” answered Ash, stepping over an overgrown root protruding from the ground. “But is it alright if you tell me about your brother in return?”
            Ash couldn’t see Lucas’ face, since he was walking behind him, so he wasn’t sure if he was offended or not. Lucas didn’t pause from hesitation or anything, yet it took him awhile to answer.
            “We will see.”

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